New England Patriots @ St Louis Rams (at Wembley)
The Old England Patriots (that's what I'm calling them for now) have happy memories of playing at Wembley; their one and only appearance in 2009 culminated in a 35-7 massacre of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Whatever positive energy they can possibly summon from that experience is going to be sorely needed as they have looked decidedly ropey (the technical term) in recent weeks.
Their problem is pass defence, glaringly highlighted against the Jets last time out. Any team that allows Mark Sanchez to throw for 300+ yards is in deep trouble (I'm telling you right now that's a stat he won't be repeating this season). The Pats have tried, and faileddismally, to draft or sign quality defensive backs in recent seasons and that weakness looks likely to haunt them in their latest surgefor the Superbowl.
The rest of their component parts (run defence and overall offence) match up well against anyone but you can bet your life the Rams will be spending most of this week planning how best to exploit the gaps on defence. They'll also fancy their chances of limiting the passing game with Janoris Jenkins and Cortland Finnegan sealing up the corners, but the Pats have such a variety of weapons that the first investment I'd advise would be over 46.5 pts @ 2.01/1 in the Total Points market. Don't let the nasty weather forecast put you off as the Pats in particular are well used to getting it done in evil conditions.
Rams' QB Sam Bradford has not been exactly lighting up the scoreboard with six point plays, but he is an improving quarterback who willtake anything the defence gives him. His receivers should find that extra yard to get open v the Pats so they might be able to bump up the Rams' fairly dismal average points total. 'Legatron' (Rams' rookie kicker Greg Zuerlein) has been responsible for a good chunk of St Louis' points this season but he should have less of a load to carry than normal.
The handicap market is not one I'll be risking the mortgage on this week (for a change) but I do think that the Rams will keep things close and a 7pts start has reeled me in @ 2.01/1. I'll be bolstering that investment with bits and pieces on Rob Gronkowski and Brandon Lloyd to be First Touchdown Scorer @ 7.06/1 and 15.014/1 respectively. The Pats have plenty of weapons in the red zone and do like to mix it up but these two boys are a no-nonsense option.
Over 46.5 pts @ 2.01/1
St Louis Rams (+7 pts) @ 2.01/1
First Touchdown Scorer Rob Gronkowski @ 7.06/1 and Brandon Lloyd @ 15.014/1
New York Giants @ Dallas Cowboys
The Giants looked down and out against divisional rivals Washington last week but they would not be denied and managed to eke out an unlikely win that spoke volumes about their tremendous fighting spirit. Even Washington's inspired RGIII throwing for 258 yards and rushing for 89 couldn't put a lid on a fourth quarter surge that took the Giants to the top of the NFC East.
You'd have to favour the Giants on overall season form (after all, they are 5-2 and the Cowboys are 3-3) and they are slight favourite, but the Ten Gallon Hat Mob do have a decision over the reigning champs back in week one. Tony Romo threw for 300 yards on that occasion and had a stellar game but he'll be under as much pressure, if not more, than he was then. In order to rack up that sort of total for a second time he'll need to star in The Great Escape part two. Possible but not probable.
There will be enormous pressure on the 'Boys as a loss here pretty much ruins their season: with that in mind I expect them to over-commit, make some mistakes and give away a few penalties. The Giants on the other hand seem to be improving week on week (their dominationof the 49ers in week six was a particularly strong effort), and with the play-offs virtually guaranteed, a more measured approach couldreap rewards.
Running back Ahmad Bradshaw has a bit to prove after a public row with coach Tom Coughlin (not adverse to a good barney himself). He wasn't impressed with the lack of action he saw against Washington last week and if fit should have a bigger role against the league's 14th ranked pass defence.
You can never be too sure with the Cowboys; good one week, poor the next, but I don't fancy them to shine in this one and 1.84/5 for a Giants win looks a decent price. I'll have a piece of that and back it up with a slice of 4.57/2 on a Giants winning margin of 1-6. If you can't resist a total points bet get on the unders at 2.0421/20
New York Giants to win @ 1.84/5
New York Giants winning margin 1-6 pts @ 4.57/2
Total Points under 47.5 @ 2.0421/20